Finance Consumer ‘Embedded in the past’, Victoria’s Secret forced into sale

‘Embedded in the past’, Victoria’s Secret forced into sale

Karlie Kloss
Karlie Kloss walks in 2017's Victoria's Secrets show in Shanghai. Photo: Getty
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Victoria’s Secret, which once defined sexy with its leggy supermodels prancing around in their bras and oversized angel wings, is being sold – amid growing doubts about whether it can ever appeal to a new generation of women.

The company’s owner, L Brands, has confirmed that private-equity firm Sycamore Partners will buy 55 per cent of Victoria’s Secret for about $US525 million ($A792 million).

The remaining 45 per cent state will remain with the Ohio-based company.

Victoria’s Secret’s 82-year-old founder, Les Wexner, will step down as chairman and CEO after the transaction is completed and become chairman emeritus. He has been grappling with his own troubles, including questions over his ties to the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted on sex-trafficking charges.

Victoria’s Secret once lit up runways and filled the internet with its supermodels and an annual television special that mixed fashion, beauty and music.

victorias secret sold
Victoria’s Secret has struggled against fresher competitors – both online and in malls. Photo: Getty

But that glamour has faded – and so have sales in recent years. The show was cancelled in 2019, and shares in Victoria Secret’s parent have gone from triple digits less than five years ago to a quarter of that.

The sale price for Victoria’s Secret signifies a marked decline for a brand with hundreds of outlets that had about $US7 billion in revenue last year.

“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and PINK into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth,” Mr Wexner said in a prepared statement.

“Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

But Sycamore faces big challenges turning the company around. Victoria’s Secret  has struggled to keep up with competition and failed to respond to changing tastes from women – who are demanding more comfortable styles and don’t want to be dictated to.

Online rivals have focused on fit and comfort, while offering more options for different body types. Meanwhile, other bricks-and-mortar chains have also lured customers away.

Many experts say the executives running the company were, in a sense, designing for men, not for women.

“The brand is very embedded in the past,” Neil Saunders, managing director at retail consultancy GlobalData Retail said.

“It was always about men feeling good. It should be about making women feel good about themselves.”

-with AAP

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